Observation Deck

The Power of Partnership

Providers will find manufacturers to be a ready and capable marketing allies.

Mention declining reimbursements today, and you’ll hear a collective groan. The most recent round of competitive bidding has squeezed homecare profits, and now DMEs must find new ways to remain profitable, and continue to serve a patient base that desperately needs their care and support. The homecare provider cannot do it alone – they need a business partner they can depend upon – someone who understands their issues and is responsive to the pace of change and challenges of the current marketplace.

Connecting the marketing efforts to sales leads is important for both manufacturers and HME providers. Having a partner in this process is of great value because you not only sharing the challenge, but also the return on investment.

If you haven’t met with your manufacturers on this, you should. A successful marketing relationship with your manufacturers will offer a win-win. It is important to consider core qualities in both you and your manufacturing partner, because not all partnerships are created equal. Kaylene C. Williams with California State University, Stanislaus highlighted some of these in the paper “Core qualities of successful marketing relationships.” Remember theses 3 Cs of an effective partnership – compatibility, communication and commitment.

  • Compatibility. Working together effectively as a team will help identify the problem(s) at hand and will lead to a better outcome for all. It is important for both the homecare company and manufacturer to recognize the unique individual needs of each partner up front. If the partners are not familiar with each other and do not fully understand each other’s goals then neither party will get what they want out of the partnership. Take the time to sit with representatives from your manufacturers and have these discussions before you jump into anything.
  • Communication. Establishing and maintaining effective communication is imperative. This will not only foster the relationship, but it also will lead to better outcomes. Do not just create a program with a manufacturer, and “set it and forget it.” This almost never works. Be sure to establish a regular meeting cadence and use this formula to share ideas of what is working and what is not for continuous improvements. An effective partnership is impossible without effective communication.
  • Commitment. In the book, “Marketing Services: Competing Through Quality,” authors Leonard L. Berry and A. Parasuraman state that “Relationships are built on the foundation of mutual commitment.” They are right! Ensure that your manufacturer partner is committed to your success and return the favor.

Now, what can be done? Review your current and future marketing plans and look to improve the following:

Print Advertisements

Co-branding print ads have proven to be a successful way for the manufacturer to help the provider promote their products. Today’s print opportunities are endless, direct mail, brochures, newspaper and magazine ads, flyers and more. Many manufacturers have print ads ready to go or can be resized quickly for when that local advertising representative calls you.

Digital

Whether you have hired a digital expert, firm, or are handling it yourself, consider partnering with your manufacturers on exploring digital advertising opportunities that could increase your frequency and reach. Your level of investment could leverage the opportunity to put your messaging in front of visitors on high traffic sites.

Social Media

According to Pew Research Center, 69 percent of the public uses some type of social media. Active and engaged audiences are not only using the platforms to share news with their friends and family, but they are utilizing these tools to research health information and solutions to their disability or chronic conditions. Making an investment in time in increasing your messaging on social media could prove invaluable in your customers learning about new products available and for the manufacturer the opportunity to put the spotlight on you as being a valued partner.

Website

Are you keeping visitors on your page and are they acting on your call to actions? The number one thing I see these days is the need to update product photos and metatags, HTML code that can enable your content to pull up in Internet search engines. Reach out to your manufacturers to get the photos and content you need to keep your site updated and relevant. Too many times providers have old products on their websites and in their Facebook ads. Freshening up imagery can create interest and favorably impact visitors to your site. Also, don’t forget to link to product videos or commercials if they are available. Video also plays a vital role in today’s digital marketing, the more education you can provide to your customer base the better engagement you will have.

Programs

Finally, if you are a distributor selling to providers, reach out to the manufacturer to help you sell to your customers. I want to highlight the recent launch of the CAIRE O2 Discharge Program. This program was created by our team as a comprehensive sales package that seeks to offer our distributors turnkey solutions to selling our Eclipse 5 portable oxygen concentrator as the answer to hospital discharge program. Not only is there patient education materials in this packet, but important reference sheets for the provider that can be used at the oxygen set-up. In addition, to really quantify the program’s effectiveness and savings, we provide surveys for both the provider and patient to track usability and expenses. Over time taking this important step will help the provider evaluate their current discharge expenses and the value of savings of partnering with a manufacturer with a product that can eliminate after hours calls and additional delivery routes.

When it comes to marketing there are countless resources and opinions on how to best leverage your budget to increase brand awareness and ultimately your sales. My offering to you today is just a brief overview on how to reconnect to your manufacturers through marketing collaboration. Start the conversation and explore the infinite strategies and marketing vehicles available. This exchange of ideas and shared experiences can move your relationship beyond the simple transaction of stocking shelves, and instead nurture the powerful partnership that will see you through the next decade and what’s next on the horizon.

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

George Coppola serves as the director of marketing for CAIRE Inc. (Ball Ground, Ga.), a manufacturer of portable and stationary oxygen concentrators, and liquid oxygen systems. Previous to serving at CAIRE, he worked for several major medical equipment manufacturers.

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